Beyond Prince Charming

Posted by Michael Dale Kimmel in lgbt 03 May 2015
photo courtesy of gayguys.com

photo courtesy of gayguys.com

For centuries, we’ve been taught to believe in the “Prince Charming” myth: a hero or heroine who will some day come along and sweep us off our feet.  This amazing person will not only be gorgeous and  strong but will want to take care of us forever.  Straight, gay, bi, trans, lesbian…we’ve all been brainwashed to think this way.  You may think you’re “past” it, but it’s not easy to erase hundreds of years of cultural mythology from your head.  But let’s try…

Global media and an obsession with consumerism encourage the myth.  The Selling of Marriage, Romance and Love is big business…and very profitable. Have you ever wondered why there are those love songs on Pandora/itunes?  Why all those bridal magazines? Wedding ring ads?  Big Business makes billions of dollars off the illusion of Prince/Princess Charming coming your way, followed by a big (expensive) wedding and living happily ever after…spending lots of money all along the way.

I am not advocating that we live alone, never date or enjoy love songs, but, honestly folks, we’re programmed to be suckers for these (expensive) cultural myths. It’s great it if works for you, but what if it doesn’t?  If it doesn’t for half of all heterosexual marriages, what do you think the odds are for the LGBT community?  I wonder if one of the biggest growth areas in the next ten years will be not only LGBT wedding planners and bridal (groomal?) showers, but also LGBT divorce lawyers.

Believing the Princess/Prince Charming myth often gets us hopelessly emeshed in culturally idealized ideas about love.  Romantic relationships are ostensibly about love and monogamy/marriage is merely one way to structure love. Let’s look at what “love” really is.

Here’s love as a noun:

  • a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
  • a feeling of warm personal attachment
  • sexual passion or desire.

And here’s love as a verb:

  • to have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person
  • to have a strong liking for; take great pleasure in
  • to embrace and kiss someone

None of these definitions mention “marriage”, “monogamy” or “husband/wife”.  Love is an experience and a relationship is a way to structure that experience. I invite you to take a look at your definition of love and what structure best serves the love(s) in your life.

And while we’re at it, let’s take a fresh look at how we see and experience sex.  The more I work as a psychotherapist in the LGBT community, the more I see people for whom one sexual partner isn’t satisfying. It doesn’t mean that either person is lacking, nor does it mean that you or your Prince/Princess is psychologically damaged. When you look beyond the myth, you can see what works and what doesn’t work for you.

When same-sex marriage becomes available to us all, I see it as the perfect opportunity for us LGBTers to decide if we really want it.  Let us question the myth of Princess/Prince Charming and look within to see if marriage or a committed monogamous relationship is right for us.  We can also expand the conversation to those we love and those we have sex with. Let’s bring this topic out in the open: no more shame about non-monogamous relationships!

And please don’t assume that the straight community unequivocably embraces monogamy: I see many straight couples in my psychotherapy practice who are exploring alternatives to traditional marriage.

One Prince/Princess may not be enough. If your woman or your man is your “everything”, the vast majority of your friends are “our” friends and most of your time is spent together, you may wonder why your sex life is kind of blah. A good sex life requires some excitement, some surprise, something unknown.  Even Princess/Prince Charming gets boring if you spend all your free time together.

As LGBT people at this point in time, we have tremendous options. Traditional heterosexual marriage is an option, but not necessarily the best option for everyone. Open relationships are an option. Non-monogamy (in its many forms) is an option. Polyamory is an option. Living in a community with others is an option. Let’s take off our dark glasses and see the light, my brothers and sisters: it’s a wide-open world out there, and – once again – the LGBT community can lead the way.